MOFA urges fishing vessels to purchase piracy insurance

By Joseph Yeh, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday said they haven’t found a way to establish contact with the missing Taiwan fishing vessel which was feared to have been hijacked by Somali pirates in waters near Madagascar around last Christmas since the Global Positioning System (GPS) of the vessel in question had been turned off. “We haven’t been able to contact the ship since its disappearance but we are almost certain that it had been hijacked by Somali pirates,” Bruno Shen, Deputy Director-General of MOFA’s Department of African Affairs told a regular briefing yesterday. The Kaohsiung-based longliner, Hsiuh Fu No. 1, lost contact with its Taiwanese owner after being chased by unknown vessels Dec. 25, 2010. Given recent extensive Somali piracy activities in Madagascar’s exclusive economic zone, MOFA suspect that it could have been hijacked. There were 26 people on board, including the Taiwanese skipper, as well as 12 Chinese and 13 Vietnamese crewmen, according to the Council of Agriculture’s Fishery Agency. Since maritime piracy is rampant off the coast of Somalia, currently a total of three Taiwanese vessels have been taken by the pirates there, Shen noted yesterday that his ministry has been in talks with the Fishery Agency to urge local longliner owners to purchase piracy insurance in advance if they are to sail to the region. The policy could help cover the expenses associated with a kidnapping and ransom that are likely with a pirate attack. The insurance company could even pay for hiring a ransom negotiator, Shen added.

Normally the pirates would contact the ship owner to demand ransom, however, so far the pirates did not do so, said Shen, adding that the government can do nothing but wait for the time being. “According to previous experiences, the pirates would call the ship owners of the hijacked vessel after they sailed it back to the Somali,” Shen noted.

Another possible scenario is that the pirates would occupy the vessel to serve as a mother ship for other piracy acts using the hijacked vessel before it ran out of fuel.